Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Alone

I am home alone for the second time in a week.  It won't be this way for long. Roger is playing basketball in his over...well, let's just say his "over" league, and the kids went to see a movie.  The last time I was home alone was Friday night until the kids got home from camp Saturday afternoon.  The last time before that I was home alone was....unknown.

It's not very often that this happens.  If you're a parent, especially a mom, I am sure you can relate. These are rare moments indeed and something I have been craving.  Home alone so I can do what I want, not answer to 4 other people and frankly...get the remote, the computer, the phone, the couch and any other coveted item to myself.  I don't want it to sound as though I don't like having my family around, and if you have read any other of my posts, I hope you know how much I love my time with them, but alone time is good too.  In fact, the older (and wiser) I get, the more I recognize the importance of my alone time.

If you're kids are older now, like teenagers - or even grown, do you remember the times when they were little and you could put them to bed at 7pm or 8pm and then you or you and your spouse had those few hours of quite to relax, connect and regenerate before it started all over at 7am the next morning?  If you're kids are still young, you might still be in this phase.  You are constantly doing something with them or for them, but at that magical bedtime hour...things quiet.  Then, your kids become teenagers and all that ends.  You can't tell them to go to bed at 8pm anymore and on the weekends  and summertime they probably even go to bed later than you.  Your relaxation time is zapped and you feel like you have no time to be alone with your spouse just to talk without an interruption.  Neither is better or worse than the other, they are just a part of the cycle.

Continuing with those alone times are still vital to your sanity.  Roger and I do two critical things that give us our relaxation time.  In the summer we walk nearly every night.  The kids like to be alone and so do we. We solve all the problems of the world, and some in our family and just enjoy each other.  The second thing we do is retreat to our bedroom later on to relax and talk before we turn the lights out.  The door is closed, so it means no interruptions and we still have that desired alone time.

But don't stop there!  It is equally as important that you take time just for yourself.  Speaking as a mom, I think mom's have the hardest time with this. We feel guilty like we are betraying and abandoning our family.  We're not, we are just rejuvenating so we can come back and be better moms, step moms, and wives.  This May our church had a ladies' conference called "Press Pause."  As soon as it was announced I told Roger I wanted to go.  It was really important to me to take that time for myself.  I took a day and a half off of work, invited a girlfriend and just forgot about life in general for a night and a day.  It was great.  Not only did I reconnect with a great friend, but I also spent vested time with God and frankly had an overall blast.  I needed that and I came home ready to rock and roll.

Even with all my talk, this alone time is still new to me, and a little difficult to get used to.  I haven't had much of it over the past 17 years, due to my own choices, but soon I know I will have a lot more.  I don't want to take it for granted.  I need to build relationships and do things that I am passionate about so I don't look back with regret.  Every season has its priorities, but every season also comes to a close.  How will you prepare for your next season?  Are you looking forward to being home alone?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goin' Camping

This week all three of our kids are at church camp.  This is their seventh year going, and frankly it is a summertime event that they look forward to all year long.  It is Alex's last year going, since she has graduated high school, and Christian and Adam only have one year left to attend. 

Camp is a week long adventure about three hours north of here.  The camp is on a lake, which is good, because it is super hot this week.  They do all kinds of regular camp stuff like swimming, and canoeing and games and campfires....you get the picture.  They also do chapel in the morning and worship in the evening.  The youth pastors bring in guest speakers for several nights out of the week and this year they have a Christian rap artist and his group there to perform as well.

Our kids love it!  Nothing will keep them from camp.  When they first starting attending I used to write them letters so they would get a letter every day.  The boys were young, they were just going into 6th grade, and hadn't turned 11 yet.  I would actually start sending letters out the weekend before they left so they would have them on the first day of camp.  I was worried they would get homesick.  They hadn't really been away from home and family for that extended period of time before.  I wanted them to have fun, but I didn't want them to miss us.

They next year I made sure they got letters each day they were there as well.  The year after that most days, and then it dwindled to about once a week.  Now, I don't even send any letters. In fact, I think Christian told me last year or the year before that if I send any letters, he's not going to read them, so I shouldn't bother.  Ouch!  I guess I shouldn't worry about them missing us anymore...they're past that. 

It is a bit of an investment for us to send our kids.  The price has increased over the past several years.  We know it is worth is, so we save up and make the sacrifice. Sure, we eat peanut butter and jelly while they are gone, but hey - its worth it!  Just kidding, we eat cheese sandwiches.  Anyway, its just one of those things that we know is good for our kids and good for us. See, while they are gone at camp, Roger and I get a whole week alone.  I usually take a few days off of work so we can do something fun together, but we get the luxury of being "empty nesters" for a week.  We're trying it on for size...seeming how we'll need to purchase the whole ensemble in the not too distant future.

I have to admit I am having a difficult time this year.  I'm not sure why. Roger and I have had a great time together.  I just love hanging out with him, and I am pretty sure he feels the same way about me.  Usually, I too look forward to this week and the time off from active parenting, but this year is really different.  Maybe it is the anticipation and knowing that this will be our reality in just a few years.    Maybe it's the realization that our kids don't really need us like they did seven years ago.  Maybe its the wish that they would write me a letter so I don't get sad in the quiet, still house.  Maybe its the recognition that they don't need us, but I still need them.  Whatever it is, I will be excited to see them on Saturday.  Sure, Adam will play his guitar loud and I will have to shout at him to turn it down.  Inevitably, Alex will hide in her room reading a book or doing whatever it is that she does in there, and most definitely, Christian will invoke the ever present "Stop It!" from each member from our household in an effort to create his own fun.

But they'll be home...and I will relish our family for the next few weeks until it all gets shaken up again and Alex leaves for college.  Until then (and even after) I will count my blessings and appreciate our time together because I'm the luckiest mom (and step mom) in the world!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Devil Made Me Do It

I like to think that I am an idea person, and that those ideas are generally good.  Since one of my goals is to really help other step families, particularly step moms, I try to keep my ears and mind open to good ideas on how to accomplish this.  One of my fabulous ideas is of course this blog, but I also have several other pearls rolling around in the old noggin that I am pretty sure are fairly fantastic ideas as well.  There can be a bit of hesitation, however, when it comes to the implementation of these ideas.  I am a generally positive, upbeat person and I know in my heart of hearts what I am doing is right.  My motives are good and these ideas are helpful to others, but sometimes, the voice of uncertainty (a.k.a. the Enemy) speaks really loudly into my ear shouting negativity and it can be hard to ignore.
This is often what is said:  this is a waste of your time, nobody reads this thing anyway, what can you contribute to the cause, who do you think you are sharing your stories….and the list goes on.  This can be discouraging but like I said, I know that I have good things to share, I can be a good resource  and this is is a benefit to others; so I continue.
I have often felt surrounded by the Enemy's negativity when it comes to my divorce as well.  Divorce is such an ugly word and was never a route I intended to travel.  I didn’t want to get a divorce, but it happened and it happened to Roger too.  I think I can speak for my entire family (all 5 of us) when I say:  We certainly don’t want to be known as the “divorced” family.  We don’t want that constant reminder that some of us screwed up.  We try really hard to overcome the stigma associated with divorce (yes it still exists) and I know that even though divorce isn’t God’s best, he still loves us no matter what. 
The Enemy likes us to think otherwise.  He likes us to believe that we stand out like sore thumbs at church.  He tries to convince us that everywhere we go we have a scarlet “D” on our chests.  He tells us that our children are going to be screwed up because of the choices we made.  He whispers disappointment and guilt into our ears and attempts to persuade us into believing that God hates us because of what we’ve done. 
Here’s the truth.  God hates divorce, but he doesn’t hate us.  In fact, God loves us so much that he brought Roger and me together into a wonderful marriage.  Sure, there is disappointment, and a little guilt, but I am not disappointed about who I have become since my divorce and I do not feel guilty about my new family.  In fact, I question if I would be the wife, mother and stepmother I am today if I hadn’t had a different experience in my first marriage.  Here’s some more truth:  our kids are NOT screwed up.  You are what you choose to be, and our children choose to rise above their past.  Oh, yeah, and we may be wearing a scarlet “D” wherever we go,  but only so other people in blended family situations know that we are people they can turn to for support and connection.

See, when the Enemy knows you're a threat, he makes you second guess yourself.  I know my ideas are good, and you know your ideas are good.  So don't let the enemy fool you with his negative talk.  Take his resistance as a compliment, stay confident in what you know is right and keep moving forward.  Every day is a gift and you have something wonderful to contribute to it.  
Share your ideas and contributions as a comment.  I would love to hear how you are making a difference even in a small way.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guess What Tomorrow Is?!

I'm one of those people who likes to plan ahead.  For example, I started planning Alex's graduation party last summer, and told Adam and Christian that we would start planning their's now for next year.  When I know we are going out to eat somewhere, I like to look at the menu online so I can think about what I want now, rather than waiting until we get there.  I'm not sure if there is a reason for this quirk, but I assure Roger, that out of my family he got the best of the pick - everyone else is much more rigid than me when it comes to planning ahead.

Sometimes my "planning ahead" can be a detriment.  I can be so focused on what is coming next and what tomorrow will bring that I forget to enjoy today.  I then look back and feel like I didn't enjoy myself, or I missed out on all that day could have been because I was too focused on what was next.  Sometimes I am even so focused on what I need to get done, that I expect everyone else to live on my timeline.  Disappointment and frustration sets in when they don't meet my deadlines and rather than allowing that person to learn, grow, or just do their thing I step in a just get whatever it is done.  This makes me feel better, but it doesn't help the other person at all.   I've decided that I need to change this way of thinking for a couple of reasons. 

First, I need to let my kids grow up.  Alex is 18 and Adam and Christian are almost 17 years old, so this is a good time for that.  I need to let them take responsibility for their lives and ride out the consequences of their actions, whether they be good or bad.  This is really hard because, I don't want to see my kids make mistakes and get saddled with negative consequences.  When I look back on my own life, it probably wasn't easy for my parents to watch me make those mistakes either.  Luckily, they did and I see how having to walk down those difficult roads helped shaped me into the person I am today.  I like to think I've turned out OK.

I have also finally realized that if I am constantly thinking about tomorrow, than I am not enjoying today.  If I don't enjoy today, I will miss out on all it has to offer and that might be something really good. So then if all I do is think about what is coming up next, I am just wishing my life away. I would guess that we all do this at one time or another. Think about Christmastime.  Isn't the anticipation of Christmas just the best?  We are constantly thinking about the big day, December 25th, and most everything you do is leading up to that moment:  the cookies, the parties, the family gatherings, the shopping, the decorations...its all for one day. Then, that day comes....and it's anticlimactic. I don't mean to diminish the fact that it is a wonderful celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and we get to spend time with family, but don't you feel a little....let down?  You did all that planning, but you forgot to enjoy the moments.

So, here's my plan:  I am going to live every day for that day.  I'm going to enjoy the moments big or small.  I have been given 24 hours to spend how I please, and I think life is best when we enjoy each moment. Isn't it true that TODAY is the day the Lord has made?  (Psalm 118:24) And doesn't He tell us to rejoice and be glad in IT?   So that's my plan.  I'm not saying that I won't do a little planning ahead, but I will be living for today.  I mean let's face it...I'm not getting any younger, so I don't want to wish anymore time away. 

What's your plan?  Are you living for today or thinking about tomorrow?  I welcome your comments.